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TORONTO 2019 Discovery

Minos Nikolakakis • Director of Entwined

"What you craft in your mind is always more effective than what actually happens"

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- We chatted to Greek writer-director Minos Nikolakakis, whose feature debut, Entwined, world-premiered in Toronto's Discovery section

Minos Nikolakakis  • Director of Entwined

We sat down with Greek writer-director Minos Nikolakakis to discuss his feature debut, Entwined [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Minos Nikolakakis
film profile
]
, which had its world premiere in Toronto's Discovery section.

Cineuropa: How did you come up with this story?
Minos Nikolakakis:
The idea behind the film germinated in my mind while living up in a secluded Cretan village. In such places, myths and villagers’ everyday behaviour regarding superstitions and the supernatural are quite something! All of this has been firmly embedded in my memory and my work.

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Moreover, certain stories that I was told by my grandmother were far from your average bedtime fairy tales; it was the “legacy” of her ancestors, who were “people of the land”, and this was their own perception of the world around them. Growing up, my influences ranged from the Victorian Gothic tradition and the work of Edgar Allan Poe to the fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, but also the spiritual fables of Lafcadio Hearn. Despite their different origins, there seemed to be some kind of thematic commonality. In combination with my love for films like Kobayashi’s Kwaidan and Jireš’ Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, my intention was to craft a film infused with folklore and myths, but with a local feel. The legend of the dryad felt like the ideal basis for it.

What is it in the folklore and myths that you explore that resonates today, and how did you decide which elements to show on the surface, and which to leave for the viewer to decipher or question?
Under every folkloric myth you can make out a human story, some kind of human behaviour. In our case, it was the complicated nature of the stages of the relationship between our two main characters. They are polar opposites (a city doctor and a girl who has always lived in a forest), two different worlds that fail to recognise each other’s existence. And we made them fall in love with each other. This is pretty much what happens in every relationship; we consider our view of the world to be the right one, and we clash with others that have different views. In our story, we tried to convey the fact that there is no black or white – things are more complicated and “entwined”.

The supernatural basis helped us flesh out this relationship and the clash between opposites in a more extravagant and symbolic way. There are lots of elements that we didn’t define in this relationship; we present it, and within this context of contradictions, we leave room for the audience to choose which opinion they are rooting for and what stance to take every step of the way.

How did you develop the visual and sound aspects of the film? The forest is very present from both points of view, almost like a character in itself.
It is one of our main characters because it is an environment that works as a catalyst, encouraging our characters to change. It really runs through them. By no means is it an ordinary forest; it is a bewitching place that has the ability to be both charming and threatening, and it coincides with the mood of the female protagonist.

Right from the start, it was obvious that we didn’t want to shape the forest using visual effects, as it would have shifted audiences' attention to something that looked impressive but was miles away from the realistic story that we were going for. But forests are some of the most realistic magical settings you can get. We kept the elements that would have this aura – a light breeze, a sunset, specks of dust floating around – and we implied, through the sound and camera work, everything that suggested the forest’s mood.

This way, we gave the audience a chance to create their own version of what was occurring, in their mind. Imagine strolling deep in the woods and suddenly hearing a “swoosh” through the branches. What you craft in your mind is always more effective than what actually happens. And our rule was always to go for what was relatable from our everyday experience, in order to suggest the supernatural.

What was the biggest challenge during production?
Making a fantasy film in Greece is always a challenge, by definition. This is a film with visual effects, complex prosthetics, shooting on location deep in the forest, and a story infused with cultural heritage that needs to balance all of its ingredients perfectly. The biggest challenge was, despite the film’s supernatural elements, to keep it “grounded” and make it feel like this story belongs to the everyday world, rather than the fantasy world.

In some respects (such as the production design and visual narrative), it was clear, while in others, we had to find ways to imply things, rather than show them. This turned out to be for the best because it led us to a simple and economical narrative that I had rarely seen before in a film of this genre. It also helped us to focus more on the most important element: the human story.

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